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Posted on Feb 1, 2013 | 2 comments

HHS Announces Proposed Changes to Mandate

HHS Announces Proposed Changes to Mandate

UPDATED Feb. 2 to further clarify the proposed changes.

Calling it an attempt to provide women with “preventative care” while “respecting the concerns of some religious organizations,” the US Department of Health and Human Services has issued its proposed changes to the mandate requiring nearly all employer-paid health insurance policies to include contraceptive drugs and devices, voluntary sterilization, and “morning after” abortifacient drugs.

The proposed revisions broaden the exemption for religious organizations and include ways for many non-profits and schools to avoid offering the drugs and procedures in their insurance policies.

They do not exempt or allow any accommodations to for-profit companies, or for non-profits that don’t “hold themselves out as religious organizations.”

All women with employer-paid insurance would still be offered temporary or permanent sterilization and “morning after” pills at no cost. However the insurers (including insurers providing plans for self-insured entities) would have to issue separate policies covering only those services, and absorb all costs for them.

It is unclear how the US government has the authority to require insurers to provide and pay for those or any services.

“Issuers generally would find that providing such contraceptive coverage is cost neutral because they would be they would be insuring the same set of individuals under both policies and would experience lower costs from improvements in women’s health and fewer childbirths,” says a fact sheet on the changes from The Center for Consumer Information & Insurance (CCIIO) recommended by the HHS.

“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans” says Kyle Duncan at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the public interest law firm handling the Hobby Lobby suit against the HHS, and several other suits by private businesses. “The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated. The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the pro-life political organization the Susan B. Anthony List, immediately issued a statement denouncing the changes. Because it is not a religious organization the SBA List would not qualify for an exemption under the proposed rules.

“Once again, President Obama’s so-called ‘compromise’ is unacceptable – religious and moral freedom is not up for negotiation,” she say. “There must be no religious ‘test’ by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience.  We demand respect for non-religious entities such as the Susan B. Anthony List that recognize the taking of human life is the antithesis of health care.

“Government policy under our constitution, history and statutory law has recognized the right of citizens to be free from government compulsion of conscience on such fundamental matters. The only acceptable outcome is the complete repeal of the HHS mandate and the restoration of a thriving marketplace where Americans can choose health care coverage consistent with their beliefs.”

The proposed rules are open for public comment until April 8. To read the rules, click here. To leave a comment, click here; refer to file code CMS-9968-P in your comment.

Photo by Marcin Jochimczyk, courtesy stock.xchng.

This week’s three-part story on the HHS mandate: 

Part one: HHS Suits Will Define American Law

Part two: Does the HHS Mandate Harm Workers?

Part three: HHS Suits: Why Now?

Click here for our Religious Liberty resources page. Click here to see all our previous stories and guest posts on religious liberty issues.

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2 Comments

  1. I shared the following proposal with a very intelligent priest, and he told me to keep promoting it. Please share.

    A REMEDY FOR THE HHS MANDATE–MADE POSSIBLE BY POPE BENEDICT XVI

    THE PROBLEM:

    The HHS mandate asks us all to violate our consciences by cooperating in abortion and other grave evils such as sterilization, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. It even violates the proper role of parents, who have the duty to keep such harmful things out of their children’s reach.

    WHAT MAKES THINGS WORSE:

    We, as Christians, have the moral obligation to provide health care for those most in need, especially those closest to us. But we cannot do evil so that a good effect may come from it. We cannot buy a product that violates our conscience. We cannot buy Obamacare-compliant health insurance, just as we cannot buy a drone that is programmed to attack babies and the elderly, or a vending machine stocked with condoms, abortion pills, and vouchers for surgical sterilization, to which one’s own children would have easy and free access, without any further parental consent or even notification.

    HOW TO APPROACH A POSSIBLE SOLUTION:

    If we can take positive measures to preserve the integrity of our consciences, we should do so; If we can find ways to provide for the bodily needs of others without paying for Obamacare-compliant health insurance, then we, as a Church, must take that initiative.

    POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

    (1) Join one of the three existing Health-Sharing Networks: “Medishare,” “Samaritain,” or “Christian Healthcare Ministries.” Although these are largely run by Protestants, it may be appropriate to cooperate with our separated brethren in these ministries of Charity, according to article 14 of the Pope’s recent motu propio “On the Service of Charity.” This would be a good short-term approach.

    (2) The best long-term approach is to form a Catholic version of these charitable ministries in each and every parish across the Country. This kind of thing is what the Pope is specifically asking for in article 9 of the same motu propio. The Holy Father even goes on further to describe how there could be cooperation between neighboring parishes, and even suggests that there could be coordination between neighboring bishops, in Article 12, paragraph 2.

    SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND, AS WE FORM PARISH-BASED MINISTRIES:

    Pope Benedict cautions against an impersonal endeavor that is limited only to “collecting and distributing funds” (Introduction), noting that the parish-based ministries must “also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity.” (article 9) In other words, when we see someone in need, we should first consider if it is possible to help them immediately, under our own initiative, before getting the parish-based ministry involved in the matter. This would be a perfect example of the principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity.

    • There are several problems with this proposal, although something like this might be the best one can end up doing. First, it does not address the underlying problem, which is that the US government is mandating that religious people violate their consciences — even if we could all figure out a way to get around doing so, the demand itself is the problem. Second, it does not address private businesses, which would presumably not be able to purchase such insurance. Third, the proposed changes to the law amount to a shell game: All women employees working for one of the “exempt” organizations would still be provided insurance for those goods and services. The employer would not directly pay for or handle the paperwork for that insurance, but as women would automatically get it when they were employed by a religious entity, it’s still a benefit of their employment. And fourth, as the HHS is adamant about including the “morning after” pill in this insurance despite all the outrage and lawsuits, it seems a safe bet that what it really wants to do is pave the way to include all forms of abortion. Morning after pills cause abortions. Once they are free for all women, it will be an easy step to say, “well, if THAT kind of abortion is okay, they all should be.”

      Those are the objections that come to mind off the top of my head. There are many others. But as I said a plan like this might end up being the best of legal options.

      Anyone else have any ideas?

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